Poverty Solutions Grant Awards

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Faculty Request for Proposals (PDF) – Reviewed on a rolling basis in 2020.

2020 Community-Academic Research Projects

These projects are co-sponsored by the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, and researchers and community representatives work as equal partners to pursue action-oriented research questions and interventions strategies that will benefit the communities involved.

Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of microenterprise development and neighborhood entrepreneurship training programs in Detroit. The impetus of these programs is to stimulate urban economic development and neighborhood revitalization in the city’s underserved communities. 

The aim of this study is to evaluate these programs collectively with respect to outcomes of new venture growth, wealth creation, and upward economic mobility in these communities.  Specifically, this study seeks to understand and explore the impact of these programs on low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in these communities and discover best practices in urban entrepreneurial development and wealth creation. Since the primary thrust of entrepreneurship is value creation, the goal of this study is to examine how entrepreneurship can catalyze upward economic mobility among people with low to moderate incomes in an urban environment. 

Marcus D. Harris, University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Business
Michael Gordon, Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan
Nicole Farmer, Grand Innovation
April Boyle, Build Institute
Jacquise Purifoy, Build Institute
Crystal J. Scott, University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Business
Jeffrey Robinson, Rutgers Business School 

The goal of this project is to assess the feasibility of using grocery delivery to strengthen services related to the special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by improving access to and use of food benefits during pregnancy. Grocery delivery, a well-established and inexpensive service, removes logistical barriers to obtaining healthy foods but is underused by low-income populations. The objective of this work is to evaluate whether young pregnant women want and are able to order WIC-covered foods online (feasibility/acceptability) and whether doing so impacts their diet and weight gain during pregnancy. The researchers hypothesize that online ordering of WIC-covered foods will be convenient and will increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. These findings will provide critical evidence to the USDA and State WIC agencies on the impact of expanding online ordering of groceries to include WIC beneficiaries as it currently only allows for some SNAP (food stamp) beneficiaries. 

The aims of this project are two-fold. Firstly, researchers will examine the feasibility and acceptability of online ordering of WIC-covered foods measured by both: 1) the number of young pregnant women who are successfully able to independently order online, and by 2) interviews to assess their satisfaction with the process. Secondly, using text message surveys and automated home scales, researchers will assess the impact of food delivery on diet quality and weight gain during pregnancy among young pregnant women age 14-24 years of age, living in three Michigan counties: Genesee, Wayne, and Washtenaw. 

Gayathri Akella, Washtenaw County Health Department WIC
Tammy Chang, University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine
Marika Waselewski, University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine

This proposal will combine the African traditions of generative economy with contemporary technology design to create an AfricanFuturist greenhouse. The greenhouse exterior will be designed by local artists from the African American community to provide aesthetic fit to the museum surroundings. The interior will be designed and prototyped by University of Michigan students, such that it can grow the plant materials for bead creation. It will also supply fresh vegetables and, from an aquaponics tank, fresh fish. By using photoelectric and thermal solar energy, as well as a rain catchment system, the team will create a small scale model for what could become a broader set of self-sufficient, sustainable urban practices that restore the links between living, making and growing which is so important to Indigenous traditions. 

Of central importance, these Indigenous traditions of generative economy include reciprocal relations between human and nonhuman value generation. This project will update that using contemporary techniques to grow the feedstock that becomes the beadwork and other adornment sold in the bead museum. Add the technology of solar power, rain catchment, agricultural robotics and AI soil monitoring, and we have a platform for bringing together Detroit economic and resource needs with U-M innovation and experimentation.

Ron Eglash, University of Michigan School of Information
Audrey Bennett, University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design
Olayami Dabls, MBAD/ABA African Bead Museum

 

2020 Poverty Solutions Faculty Grants

The national system for preventing and addressing homelessness, known as the Continuum of Care (CoC), is not well understood and the capacity of these systems to successfully address homelessness has never been evaluated. To prevent and reduce increasing rates of child and family homelessness, we must understand:

  • How are homeless services governed and funded across the Continuums of Care?
  • What is the capacity of CoCs to prevent child and family homelessness?
  • What governing arrangements are associated with best practices for reducing child and family homelessness?

To answer these questions, this project will develop and field a survey of all 402 federal Continuums of Care to better understand the governance and funding structures of the CoCs, to identify CoCs facing gaps in service capacity, and to identify exemplary models of service delivery that can be used to improve systems in limited-capacity regions. The researchers aim to develop guidelines and disseminate recommendations for CoC leadership and policy stakeholders to strengthen CoC capacity.

Julia Wolfson, U-M School of Public Health
Charley Willison, Harvard University Department of Health Care Policy
Scott L. Greer, U-M School of Public Health


Presidential candidates in the 2020 election have made income inequality a major issue. While many candidates have introduced comprehensive tax policies, there has been little research done to understand the impact of income gains from various tax policy proposals on long-term health outcomes. This study is designed to collate evidence around the link between income and health and examine the implications for current proposals to redistribute income and wealth. 

Researchers will conduct a systematic literature review to gather and analyze existing research on health gains associated with previous income and wealth tax policies on the U.S. population. Then, they will apply these findings in decision analytic models to determine the potential life expectancy effects of different income and wealth tax scenarios, including the presidential candidates’ policy proposals. Policymakers can use this review to inform the development of future policy proposals aimed at income and wealth redistribution.

Daniel Eisenberg, U-M School of Public Health
David W. Hutton, U-M School of Public Health
Anton L.V. Avanceña, doctoral candidate, U-M School of Public Health
Bradley Iott, doctoral candidate, U-M School of Public Health
Ellen Kim DeLuca, doctoral candidate, U-M School of Public Health


Water affordability and access in the City of Detroit is a growing concern for city officials, area residents, and community groups working in the city. In this project, the researcher will work with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), Office of Sustainability, and the Detroit Health Department (DHD) to examine how the broader context of poverty – specifically housing conditions – affects water affordability for city residents. 

The research has three aims:

  1. Determine the extent to which undetected leaks in residential homes contribute to unaffordable water bills for low-income Detroit households.
  2. Collaborate with the DWSD and DHD to evaluate their Shutoff Prevention Pilot and understand how housing challenges affect water affordability.
  3. Use the findings to develop policy recommendations for the City of Detroit and other U.S. cities that can address water affordability by focusing on the challenges created by housing conditions.

Sara Hughes, U-M School for Environment and Sustainability


Young people should participate in institutions and decisions that affect their lives, but youth are not usually involved when adults make anti-poverty policy decisions. The purpose of the project is to amplify the voices of young people in community-based strategies against poverty. Groups affiliated with the Summer Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity in Metropolitan Detroit Program and Urban Neighborhood Initiatives will work together to design a research project on educational inequalities and formulate strategies to address those inequalities. 

The intergenerational research team made up of youth and adult allies will decide what they want to learn, formulate the research questions they will ask, and identify sources of information. They will gather and analyze information to answer their research questions, draw conclusions, and make recommendations for action. The research team will prepare and disseminate a report, and youth will develop public speaking and storytelling skills to communicate what they’ve learned with people in metro Detroit as well as through the Youth Civil Rights Academy’s online platform

Katie Richards-Schuster, U-M School of Social Work
Barry Checkoway, U-M School of Social Work